MANDERA, KENYA (July 1, 2016) – John Njaramba, moderator of the Covenant Church of Kenya (ECCK), was among six people killed today when gunmen fired on two passenger buses. Another member of the denomination escaped through a window on the bus.
According to news reports, the gunmen ambushed two buses near the Somalia border. The first one was able to speed through, but the second one was stopped. Most of the casualties were on the second bus.
The attackers most likely were fighters with al-Shabab, a Somali-led Al-Qaeda group.
“Pastor John was a faithful servant who loved God and desired for others to experience that love,” said Covenant minister Brad Bergfalk, who had taught theology for four months during a sabbatical in Kenya. He noted that Njaramba was one of the first three pastors commissioned to serve in the ECCK.
“I was privileged to be the ordained Covenant pastor to lay my hands on him and pray,” Bergfalk said. “I hope his life of faith inspires a new generation of Kenyans to live into the calling God has for them.”
“John was a gifted and passionate church planter and leader,” Covenant missionary Pete Ekstrand wrote on Facebook. Ekstrand currently serves in Democratic Republic of Congo and previously was the ECC regional coordinator for Africa.
“Pastor Njaramba was a gifted leader,” ECC president Gary Walter said. “He loved Jesus, and he loved the Covenant Church of Kenya.”
Walter added, “We mourn the loss of all those who were killed in this attack. I ask that Covenanters will pray for their families and for the ECCK.”
In a message to Ekstrand, a member of the ECCK we are not naming described the attack, saying that he “was sitting on the driver’s side and that’s where the attackers hailed bullets. After shooting the driver the bus stopped and by God’s grace I jumped through the window running to the bush. Bullets flew over my head but God shielded me. … We came back to the road and met other escapees.”
He added that ambulances had picked up the survivors and taken them to a medical center. At the time, he thought Njaramba had survived.
Al-Shabab fighters have carried out multiple attacks in the same area during recent years. Today’s ambush happened near where five policemen were killed 10 days ago.
In November 2014, the gunmen stopped a bus and killed 28 non-Muslims after separating them from the rest of the group. In December 2015 they killed two people in a similar attack, and the death toll would have been higher but other Muslim passengers, most of whom were women, surrounded the other Christians and said the gunmen would have to kill all of them.